Orla Concannon said she was always close with her nana, who died at 99 and had a green thumb.
That bond helped Concannon found her Seattle-based company Eldergrow, which allows elderly patients to garden indoors.
After founding the program in graduate school, Concannon’s business plan won numerous awards; she successfully completed University of Washington’s Jones & Foster Accelerator Program for Innovative Start-Ups and was awarded money to start Eldergrow.
Parker Jewish Institute recently embraced the program, becoming the first facility in the Northeast to have a horticultural program.
“Once again, Parker is at the forefront of innovative and state-of-the-art therapy modalities for older adults,” Parker President and CEO Michael Rosenblut said during a presentation of the program held on Thursday. “We’re excited about our new horticultural therapy program, because it promotes the stimulation of body, mind and spirit.”
With Eldgergrow, patients can garden all year round. The indoor gardening stations also allow patients to garden from wheelchair height.
The indoor gardens, which will be placed on various levels throughout Parker Jewish, have a light that allow the plants to grow.
“Bringing nature indoors, that’s the whole premise,” Concannon said. “It’s not always a beautiful day out.”
The horticultural therapy engages all five senses, which leads to its many benefits, Concannon said.
Benefits include improved mood, motor sills and memory.
During Thursday’s presentation, patients got a chance to start planting their chosen flowers.
Sharon Walters said she always loved to garden but hasn’t done it recently because of pain.
Unlike a traditional garden, where Walters would have to bend down causing her pain, Eldergrow allows her to remain at seat level.
“Massaging the ground, the earth … that’s what I love,” Waters said. “I feel accomplished after.”
In addition to the indoor gardens, the Eldgergrow program also offers classes to patients.
Sabina Boccia, an Eldgergrow educator who lives in Garden City, will be teaching classes twice a month at Parker.
Classes include garden art and cooking, among others.
The classes also help stimulate cognitive function, Concannon said.